Meanwhile, the fight over Planned Parenthood was delayed by the August recess, but is likely to come to a head again as Congress debates how to prevent a shutdown on Oct. 1, when the government’s funding expires. Neither chamber has a funding plan in place (though a short-term continuing resolution appears likely) and conservative leaders are still seething over undercover videos that allege that the organization illegally sold fetal tissue, allegations the group vigorously denies.
Senate leaders remain highly skeptical of plans to couple the two issues, particularly after a bill to defund Planned Parenthood failed to pass the upper chamber just before members broke for the August recess. Leaders have pledged repeatedly to keep the government’s doors open at the end of September, regardless of conservative plans to hold funding hostage to a Planned Parenthood vote. "I'm not for going in any box canyons,” Majority Whip John Cornyn said just before the August recess. “We tried that before [and] that didn't work very well."
McConnell went a step further in an interview with Kentucky television station WYMT last week, arguing that the issue will have to wait until after the 2016 election. “The president’s made it very clear he’s not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood, so that’s another issue that awaits a new president, hopefully with a different point of view about Planned Parenthood,” McConnell said.
Yet that is not stopping hardline conservatives such as presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, from insisting that leadership include such language in a spending bill that must be passed by the end of September.
Cruz has worked to rally the religious right to help put pressure on McConnell and other Republican leaders to end funding for the organization, inviting 100,000 religious leaders to join him on a conference call at the end of August to formulate a plan of attack. In an op-ed in USA Today a few days earlier, Cruz wrote: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should not schedule or facilitate the consideration of any legislation that gives federal money to Planned Parenthood,” presumably including a continuing resolution.
Whether Cruz will rally his troops to the point of a government shutdown, as he did two years ago over funding for Obama’s health care law, remains to be seen. But Jordan said the videos and national publicity on the issue from presidential contenders will help put pressure on Democrats beyond the recent shutdown.
“Frankly I was disappointed in what we heard from the majority leader,” Jordan said in an interview. “If we fully engage in this debate we can win this debate. … I think this a whole different framework. We’ve got this amazing phenomenon happening with the presidential campaign. We’ve got videotape. It’s a different framework today than it was in any other appropriations process.”